Thunderbolt by
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Prompted By Priciest Purchase

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New Bike Day! The tall skinny guy is Mark, shop owner and MTB addiction enabler

I bought a bike in 2011 because I wanted to lose weight and bicycling is the only exercise that doesn’t make me want to cry.

I, in the throes of the Dunning-Kruger Effect*, decided that it was obviously the bike that was blocking my path to Über-ridership.

I’d been a road cyclist (with hints of proto-BMX) until I hit driver’s license age. I knew I loved riding a bike. My basic plan was to commute by bike so I’d get exercise most days, without having to find time for it. It’d be baked right into my schedule. One thing I remembered about the lightweight road or racing bikes I had owned was their delicacy. I got good at fixing flats and truing wheels because I did it so frequently. Wanting something rugged enough to not need frequent TLC, I bought a low-end mountain bike. A Raleigh hardtail. It was around $500.00, which is not the lowest of low end, but it’s a lot closer to the bottom than to the top.

This was fine until, later that same year, I was abruptly seized with the desire to ride a bike through an abandoned copper mine (A Single Track Mind). This was actual mountain biking, and I was immediately hooked.

For those of us with no inborn athleticism, mountain biking is hard. A couple of years passed and I, in the throes of the Dunning-Kruger Effect*, decided that it was obviously the bike that was blocking my path to Über-ridership. So I got a better hardtail, setting me back a bit over a grand.

I rode #2 for a few years, with improvement coming slowly. In a rare second wave of Dunning-Kruger, I got the (false) impression that the geometry of my bike was less safe than a bike with the latest frame geometry. Then, in the Fall of 2016, my favorite bike shop had a manufacturer’s Demo Day at the forest preserve where I do most of my riding. On a whim I signed out a full-suspension beauty called a “Thunderbolt”…and  immediately set a personal best time on several segments of trail. On a bike I had never ridden before.

I asked the price. It was $2500.00. I went home, discussed it with Gina (whose response to my every mountain bike desire has been “go for it!”) and called the shop to place the order. In November it was mine**.

I am still riding the Thunderbolt, and am under no illusions that I will ever be better than the bike is. With some recent upgrades, it now has a replacement value of over $4,000.00, so it definitely qualifies as my biggest purchase that I don’t live in or drive.

Bizarre side note: The very first day I rode the Thunderbolt in the woods, someone who had seen my Facebook post and picture about it saw me riding and stopped to talk about the bike. He also asked about the shop where I had bought it, and whether they had been willing to negotiate on the price. But what he actually asked was, and I quote,  whether I had been able to “Jew them down” at all.

I just stared at him, dumbfounded.  I had literally not heard that term in a couple of decades. Then I softly said “we don’t really like that expression” and stared at him some more, silently, before I rode away. Let him think he was alone in the forest with a pissed off Hebrew….


* Dunning-Kruger

** It’s better than that. It soon transpired that the exact model of Thunderbolt that I had test-ridden was going to be back-ordered for many months. The shop was a new distributor for that company, and me riding around on a bike no one else in Chicago had would be good word-of-mouth, so they offered to specially ship the one Thunderbolt that they had available to the shop. But…the one they had was the next model up, with a carbon fiber frame. It was $3,000.00. I regretfully told the shop owner that I had to stay on budget, and resigned myself to a long wait. Mark called the factory back, and negotiated a discount; I got it for the price of the lesser model. This is why I like to deal locally!





Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    I admire your love of mountain biking and this investment sounds well worth it. (Great support from Gina!). I thought I knew what the Dunning Kruger effect was, but was enlightened by the graph. Thanks for that!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    As the wife of someone who rode serious road bikes until a series of serious accidents made his doctors forbid him to ride, I totally understand the allure of a good bike, and how the better equipment can improve your experience. I’m glad you “went for it” and have been happy with your bike ever since. Good for you! And thanks for your reaction to that awful request from the other biker.

  3. Dave, thanx for another wonderful biking story!

    Knowing how much that sport means to you, am sure none of us is surprised that Gina said, “Go for it!” And your response to that bigot was perfecf!

  4. Marian says:

    Very good investment in the bike, Dave, and I know you use and enjoy it. Absolutely love the Dunning-Kruger effect. I always strive to be the conscious incompetent.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      Dunning-Kruger can have very startling consequences. My fall from Mount Stupid was when I visited a new and more challenging set of trails that I was not ready for and went flying over the bars…four times in one day. That may be a world’s record. I damn near sold the bike and went back to (shudder) jogging. But that day inspired me to seek professional coaching, which has proven worth every penny.

  5. Suzy says:

    Great story, Dave, about a pricey purchase that was clearly worth the cost. And as others have said, thanks for shutting down that bigot!

    • Dave Ventre says:

      My fleet now numbers four (#4 is currently on its way), but the Thunderbolt cost more than the rest combined. As for the bigoted jerk, it was a pleasure. Now, five or more years on, I’d be much less subtle in my disapproval!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Dave, and so very well told. I, too, love to bike, so particularly resonated to your story. And I have a very cheap hybrid that is nearly twenty years old. I know that I should upgrade one of these days, but, day to day, and given my very easy usual route on local roads, I never seem to have the momentum to do so. Plus, I’m not inclined to go to my bike place and try to “Jew them down” — which, in my case, would be literally true, but still beyond offensive. Iroically, maybe it is good to be reminded that there are still bigoted jerks out there who think this way.

    And many thanks for your invocation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is one of my favorite concepts, though I try not to apply it to myself — though I realize that that in itself may be evidence that I am subject to it. Rather, I reserve it for most Republicans and their supporters these days.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      John, when you hang out with like-minded people, it is easy to fall into the trap of carelessly assuming that everyone is like oneself. I have had that come out badly a couple of times. Maybe you are right that periodic reminders of the existence of the hateful and willfully ignorant are useful.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Although this was a pricy purchase, for the pleasure and fitness it has given to you, it’s worth every penny.

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    Dave, this is an awesome story. Of course Gina was and has been supportive; you sound like a gentleman who seeks little of the material for himself. I am shocked as well by the remark. (I wonder, how old was this guy, 102?) I’m a Catholic who flies under the radar of an Anglo-Saxon surname. Over the years I’ve heard it all.

    There is a beautiful white bike in my living room that I may never be able to ride again. Nevertheless it will stay there, as pleasing to me as any sculpture.

    Enjoy the ride!

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